After a day and a half of being delayed by winter storms, we finally arrived in Moscow in the middle of the night. I was greeted by an unpleasant young man asking for my passport. The walls were gray, and a single florescent light flickered above. In a strong Russian accent, the young man uttered one word in English. “Go”. We knew then we were not in the Western world anymore. After spending a few days in Moscow, however, it began to feel a bit more like being at home. Outdoor boards, TV channels, wall postings, magazines in people’s homes, all advertising Audi®, TAG®, Gucci®, BMW®, Dior®. But something was different. People’s perception of luxury from Western culture was that of an achievable lifestyle. After visiting several homes and spending time with consumers and shoppers, we learned that Russians believe people in developed Western markets actually live like the images they see in advertising. Unlike those in developed markets, these consumers have not had the years of experience and exposure to see the marketing and repetition nor have the different levels of financial class to understand how luxury can fit into their current lifestyles.
Before departing on my last day, we spent time with a nice mother of two in her home. We asked her why she had such a fascination with luxury. She then reached on to her top shelf where she proudly displayed her Dior fragrance. She then said “I know the face of Dior [Charlize Theron]. I want to be like her and like you. Rich.”
How can luxury and premium brands reach the mainstream of emerging-market consumers? How can Western brands that are seemingly unobtainable fit into the ordinary lives of “cash only” shoppers?
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-Contributed by Stephen Moon